SERMON: Sex: God’s Wedding Gift
BIO: Pastor Denn Guptill has been in ministry for nearly 30 years. He planted Cornerstone Wesleyan Church in Nova Scotia, Canada more than 16 years ago and continues to serve the church today. Cornerstone is a mid-sized suburban church of new and seasoned believers that exists within an affluent community. His advice to preachers is “Make it listenable and keep your integrity intact.”
Lenny: Sex is one of those hard topics to preach upon for most pastors. It ranks up there with preaching about tithing, war, and forgiveness. Describe your congregational context and how they responded to this message. Were there mixed responses?
Denn: We live in a fairly affluent community with a population of close to 40,000. There are only nine churches and the majority of them are mainline. The result is that most of the people we are reaching have no faith baseline, and because so many of our people have little or no biblical foundation we try not to assume people understand our church’s stand on certain issues. Sex is one of those issues. People continue to be amazed by the fact that God is interested in their everyday lives and is concerned about how they live.
For the majority of people in our community, if they have thought about God and sex at all it would be that he’s against it, but they don’t know why that is. And so in my message I wanted people to consider the question: Could it be that God is concerned about us and that his guidelines are there not to ruin our fun but to protect us from harm?
I don’t expect everyone to agree with my preaching, especially on topics like this. Seriously, if everyone agreed with what I have to say then Cornerstone obviously isn’t reaching those who need to be reached. Before I was a preacher I was a high school debater and you assumed that people were going to disagree with you. And that was all right.
My goal is for people to leave on Sunday morning being able to draw a direct line between what I said and where they live. My biggest fear is that I will waste people’s time with irrelevant teaching, and that I won’t answer the question they ask every Sunday morning: “So What?”
I realized a long time ago that I can’t make decisions for people, but I should be able to present them with viable, intelligent reasons why they should at least consider what the Bible has to say on issues such as sex. For most of those in our community, “Because the Bible says so” isn’t a good enough reason, so I better be able to articulate why the Bible says so and what that means in their lives.
Lenny: I once preached a message entitled “Great Sex” with the goal of communicating that sexual pleasure and procreation within the covenant of marriage was God’s idea from the very beginning of creation. Why did you preach a sermon on sex and what was your primary goal for this message?
Denn: This message kicked off a series that I preached on marriage and family, and I felt like we needed to set the bar before moving into the series. The next message was, “Marriage, what it is and what it Ain’t.” That message dealt with some of the issues that come up at Cornerstone: couples living together, same sex relationships, and why bother getting married at all? As a result of those two messages I had a couple who had been living together for a number of years with children approach me about getting married. I performed their wedding as a part of our Sunday worship a couple of weeks later. That was their decision—they said Sunday morning was where they made the decision to get married and so it seemed like appropriate time and place.
Lenny: Whenever a local church pastor preaches about sexuality, he/she needs to walk the fine line between condemning or condoning those who have struggled and failed to maintain sexual purity. How did you attempt to balance grace and truth in this message?
Denn: I tend to use humor in all my messages and find that it helps with the hard topics. When I was just beginning to preach, I heard an evangelist by the name of Jimmy Lentz comment, “I get ‘em to open their mouths to laugh and then I jam it full of truth.” Seemed like good advice back then and it is still working today. People’s defenses are down when they laugh.
I stress grace a lot in my messages, and the fact that you can’t start new but you can start again. I read recently that nobody should be judged on the worst moment of their life and we need to make it clear that no matter how far people have travelled away from God that His grace can still find them.
Lenny: In your opinion, do pastors preach on the topic of sex enough? As you look back upon your ministry, how often have you preached on sex?
Denn: I am a big believer that each one of us is a result of the choices we make and that is a recurring theme in my messages, urging people to be careful in their choices. A part of that conversation includes their sexual behavior. The reason people don’t know about biblical standards has to be because they are not hearing about them from the church, but then the church is disappointed in their behavior. We can’t just assume that people know what the Bible teaches on these issues.
I have probably only preached a handful of messages specifically addressing sex but it creeps into my preaching on a regular basis when I speak about lifestyle choices and what the Bible has to say about those choices and the consequences, both spiritual and practical, of those choices.
Lenny: What guidance would you give to the new preacher who is taking on the topic of sex for the first time?
Denn: Don’t apologize for preaching the hard topics. People are looking and listening for some kind of direction for their life. If what you are saying is based on biblical truth, then you have no reason to apologize. If it’s not based on biblical truth, then you are simply offering your opinion, which might be all right over a coffee but has no place coming from the preacher on Sunday morning.
My people are bombarded with opinions about their sexual behavior and my opinion probably carries a whole lot less weight than Oprah, Dr. Phil, or society in general. However, I can and should speak for a higher authority than simply “Denn says.” There are plenty of reasons in the scriptures as to why God is concerned about our sexual behavior. People need to hear them and understand them.